Alleging that subcontractors have withheld salaries for several weeks, a crew of painters demonstrated outside the UCSB Facilities Management office yesterday to demand their paychecks.

About 20 to 25 people demonstrated outside the office and alleged that 13 to 15 painters did not receive wages for as many as seven weeks of work for painting housing blocks B and C of the 327-unit San Clemente Student Housing project. The new housing site, which is scheduled to open in April, will accommodate hundreds of graduate students and is located along El Colegio Road.

The Painters and Allied Trades, District Council No. 36, a labor union of more than 11,000 workers in Southern California, organized the protest claiming that subcontractor Ryan’s Painting has not paid its employees for their labor at UCSB. The union has issued a notice demanding that UCSB cease paying ProWest Constructors – a management company the university retained to oversee the contractors – for work done by the painting firm. The union alleges Ryan’s Painting is lying on its certified payrolls about providing wages to its workers and that $87,840.69 plus interest is owed to the workers.

Carlos Torres, the field agent for the union, said the painters picketing have not received pay for between three and seven weeks.

Ryan’s Painting could not immediately be reached for comment and a call to ProWest Jobsite Vice President Earl Rush was not returned.

By state law, contractors involved in constructing public works such as San Clemente are required to pay a pre-defined amount called the prevailing wage. Union Supervisor Mike Gutierrez alleges none of the painters currently working on the project are receiving this amount.

According to the California Dept. of Industrial Relations, for Santa Barbara County, the prevailing hourly wage for painters ranges between $31 and $37 for varying categories of painters.

“If you’re working on public works, you have to make prevailing wages,” Gutierrez said. “None of them have been paid prevailing wages. [Those paid have] only gotten $15 an hour.”

However, Associate Vice Chancellor for Campus Design and Facilities Marc Fisher said UCSB does pay its construction workers prevailing wages.

“We absolutely do hire workers who make prevailing wage,” Fisher said. “It’s part of our contractual obligations.”

Meanwhile, Gutierrez said the union is examining additional companies involved in painting the buildings for alleged misconduct and the union will discuss these issues with ProWest and UCSB in the coming week, though he declined to name which firms.

“This is not the only contractor we are having problems with,” Gutierrez said. “There are others that are not paying prevailing wages that are lying on certified payroll.”

Torres said picketers will continue protesting on campus until the workers receive the wages they were allegedly denied.

“We’ll be back Tuesday or Wednesday in front of Facilities Management,” Torres said. “We’re here to make sure these people get paid what’s rightfully theirs.”

San Clemente Student Housing, a $153,805,000 project, consists of a total of 21 three-story buildings. It is located north of El Colegio Road between Los Carneros Road and Stadium Way.